Friday, April 24, 2009

Bread Baking with Pizza Napoletana

A day when I bought a book from Peter Reinhart : Bread Baker Apprentice, I realized that bread baking is not an easy task. The book is excellent, full of detail how to create best bread through fermentation stages. But it takes most of the recipe several hours to days to actually produce beautiful handmade bread.

We've been tried several recipes, but the easiest and worthiest is Pizza Dough Napoletana. Even though the whole process is quite tasking, I began to understand the essential of baking bread. It must be patient and follow the instruction strictly. It could be hard for beginner like me, but in the end it was a rewarding, a nice piece of bread with lovely smell filling in your kitchen. It was worth for every minutes you've spent.

We loves pizza so much, so we decided to try create our own pizza dough, putting the topping as our preferences. For trial we've using different flour from whole wheat, all purposes into bread flour. The regime was detail but make sense in many form of food science. The flour should be chilled first to let it not so fast react when mixed with yeast. It's all about chemistry and math. (It does as the book excerpt the formula into baker's percentages)

The size of dough is about right for two. The recipe let us to divide into six dough that can be frozen until 3 month. (It's rare to reach that time limit, always less than two months because we are pizza mania). To thaw and let the yeast back to life only need a day in the fridge, and two hour in room temperature. The last batch we did with bread flour made the dough more spongy, increasing size in significant amount. It also create crispier crust with lovely bubble of air.

Other key feature on pizza making is the stone bread at high temperature oven. (Peter suggested 500-550F which done by stone to distribute the heat evenly ). We've experimenting all sort of combination of topping, but turned out the Anchovies and smoked salmon with green pesto is the best one.

Anchovies and Smoked Salmon Pizza

1 Pizza dough Napoletana from Peter Reinhart's (recipe here at Heidi Swanson, let two hours in room temperature if the batch fresh or thaw a day before in refrigerator.
Olive oil for spraying
All purpose Flour for dusting
Semolina for layering on the stone

Topping :
2 tablespoon of green pesto, fresh on olive
two big flanks of smoked salmon, we uses most Scottish one
couple tablespoon anchovies
sun dried tomatoes chunks
handful of green olives
1 cup fresh mozzarella cheese
1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
Note : use most of topping with oil based rather brines as water usually seep into the dough, it will finished with no solid bread surface.

  • Punch the pizza dough to reduce the air, then start stretching (follow the instruction from the recipe). If you facing hole or very thin layer, do it again once until you get the nice even thickness. Do not let hole as it tends ruin the topping and whole performance.
  • Spread the green pesto on top of dough, followed by salmon and anchovies. Filling the gap with cheeses and olives.
  • Slide the pizza onto the oven using pizza peels with semolina flour on the base. Bake for 2 minutes then rotate to another 5-8 minutes. (the pre-heat should be done half an hour before or more to let the stone ready).
  • Let it rest for 1-2 minutes then cut, ready to serve.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Breakfast with scones and lemon marmalade

Practically marmalade is bitter and sour jam made from oranges. Living in this country, which loves sugar so much, I found difficulty to buy decent raw material. I have been around farmer market, asking if there were Seville Oranges. Most of California's oranges, such Navel or Valencia were design for juicing.

Then someone gave us bag of lemon, fresh from tree. Idea to make marmalade from lemon comes up mixed with lime to add sourness. To create marmalade that locally grown is bit adventurous. The recipe below came from Allotment UK -community garden which probably straight forward. But for beginner, I recommend to look up at Simply Recipe along with pictures and detail how to make it.

The key is pectin, the ingredients that contains at seeds of lemon. Due the low contents of pectin at lemon, we reduced the water. It's better to leave the seeds, pips and pith soaked overnight with the cheese bag.

Marmalade best served with scones for breakfast. I managed to create British type scones at small round than triangle shape. (In North America, this is refer to buttermilk biscuit so don't get confuse). The buttery taste of scones and kick of lemon marmalade is perfect combination to start another hard day.

Lemon Marmalade

  • 2 lb (900 g) lemons (we added 2-3 limes)
  • 6 pints (3.4 litres) water (Note : we reduce the amount of water into 3 liter)
  • 1½ lb (675 g) sugar per 1 lb (450 g) pulp

  1. Wash and dry the fruit. Cut in half and squeeze out the juice. Remove the pips, inside skin and pith. Tie these in a piece of muslin.
  2. Cut the peel finely or coarsely, according to preference.
  3. Put the peel in a large bowl with the bag of pips etc and the juice. Add 6 pints of water and leave to soak overnight.
  4. Weigh the preserving pan and make a note of it. Put the soaked peel, pith and pips into it with the water and juice.
  5. Bring to the boil and simmer gently until the peel is soft and the contents of the pan have been reduced to half its original bulk. This will take about 1½ hours.
  6. Lift out the bag of pips and pith, squeezing it again the side of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  7. Test for pectin.
  8. Re-weigh the pan and subtract from this weight the original weight of the empty pan to calculate the weight of the remaining pulp.
  9. Add 1½ lb (675 g) of warmed sugar to each 1 lb (450 g) of pulp, stir until all the sugar has dissolved.
  10. Bring to the boil and boil rapidly until the marmalade sets when tested.
  11. Remove the scum and leave to cool slightly.
  12. Pot and seal whilst still hot.

Makes about 6 lbs (2.7 kg) of marmalade.


Ingredients :

1 large egg
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 Tbs granulated sugar
1 Tbs baking powder
¼ tsp salt
5 Tbs unsalted butter, cut into small pieces and chilled
¾ cup moist, plump currants (optional)

1. Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat.

2. Stir the egg and cream together.

3. Whisk the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt together in a large bowl. Drop in the butter and, using your fingers, toss to coat the pieces of butter with flour. Quickly, working with your fingertips or a pastry blender, cut and rub the butter into the dry ingredients until the mixture is pebbly.

4. Pour the egg, cream and currants over the dry ingredients and stir with a fork just until the dough, which will be wet and sticky, come together. Don’t overdo it. Still in the bowl, gently knead the dough by hand, or turn it with a rubber spatula 8 to 10 times.

5. Lightly dust a work surface with flour and turn out the dough. Divide it in half. Working with one piece at a time, pat the dough into a rough circle that’s about 5 inches in diameter, cut it into 6 wedges and place it on the baking sheet. (At this point, the scones can be frozen on the baking sheet, then wrapped airtight. Don’t defrost before baking- just add about 2 minutes to the baking time). Note : I created small round dough as British traditional scones.

6. Bake the scones for 20 to 22 minutes, or until their tops are golden and firmish. Transfer them to a rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving, or wait for them to cool to room temperature.

Yield: 12 small scones
Recipe Source: Adapted from Baking From My Home to Yours from Recipegirl

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Birthday Celebration : Indulge myself with decadent carrot cake

In the last two weeks I have been battered by nasty cold. Then I realized my birthday just passed with pile of acetaminophen and paracetamol, I did not regret it. I need a rest, a very good rest. In the middle of snotty nose and feverish state, somehow I asked my self why God created virus to human. Homo Sapiens need to be tested. If you pass, its body learn to cope, creating system to protect from similar illness. Well, nature selection is about adjusting into environment.

When I am feeling little better, I'd like to pamper myself. I choose to make very own birthday cake. Rambling around I found video from Tyler Florence. It's carrot cake with cream cheese frosting on top, which match with our purposes to reduce sugar contents. Carrot cake is always our preference, while the Cointreau syrup enrich overall orange taste.

Pineapple always being my childhood memory. My grandmother used to sell beansprouts in local market every morning. When I visited her during school holiday, she asked me what I like to eat when she back from market. Well, I can asked anything, but always pineapple. Most of her grandchildren asked pocket money, while I was happy with these fruit, available cheaply in the market in Java. In US pineapple become such a delicate and exotic option. It's sourness with lots of juice make it good combination on the cake.

Tyler Florence

Yield: 1 large cake, serves 8-10
Time: 1 hour 45 minutes

1 1/2 cups finely minced carrots (looking at the video seemed like Tyler added extra cup, I suggest make it 2-2.5 cups)
1/2 cup crushed pineapple, drained
3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

2 1/2 cups, all-purpose flour, plus extra for pan
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
a pinch of kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup molasses (I uses dark molasses, so reduce into 30-50% than on the recipe)
4 large eggs
3/4 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups dark brown sugar

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter a jelly roll pan and line with parchment. Set aside.
  2. Take the carrots and chop into large pieces then mince in a food processor until you have a fine texture.
  3. Drain pineapple and finely chop walnuts. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl add flour, salt, baking soda, baking powder and spices together.
  5. In a separate bowl ( I am using standing mixer) mix buttermilk with eggs, vegetable oil, molasses. Pour dark brown sugar bit by bit until the batter looked spongy and corporate together about another 3-4 minutes.
  6. Now pour dry ingredients together to make a batter for 5 minutes with medium speed. Then fold in the carrots, pineapple and walnuts.
  7. Pour into the prepared pan and bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until cake is set and springs back when gently pressed in the middle.
  8. Remove the pan from the oven and allow cake to cool on a rack while you prepare the frosting and cointreau carrots (recipes below). Once the cake has cooled, cut into three rectangles by cutting the cake lengthwise twice.
  9. Stack the cake up into three tiers with cream cheese frosting in between each layer. Frost the outside of the entire finished cake - smoothing off the edges and corners (an offset spatula works well). Smudge walnuts on every side of cheese cream fros. Top with Cointreau pineapple rounds and drizzle a little of the syrup on top as well.


2 lbs cream cheese, room temperature for 3-4 hours
2 sticks of unsalted butter, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 cups powdered sugar

Using a kitchen mixer, combine cream cheese and butter until blended and you have a smooth, light texture. Note : cut butter into small cubes and add it bit by bit on the cream cheese, otherwise you will end up with lump of butter on the bottom of the mixer bowl.
Add the vanilla, lemon zest and powdered sugar and beat until combined. Continue to beat until smooth and glossy - about 7 minutes.


1 cup pineapple, cut in size
1/2 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup Cointreau (or 50ml from small bottle)
pinch of salt

Add carrot, butter, sugar, cointreau and salt to a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer and reduce until syrupy - about 5 minutes.

This is the video version :
Birthday Celebration: "Make a wish over this decadent carrot cake topped with Cointreau Carrots."